Using French As Bargaining Tool May Hinder Irish Stars Of Tomorrow


‘He who is not courageous enough to take risks, will accomplish nothing in life’. Muhammad Ali.

Bluff or real deal? We may never know but one thing is for sure, the big money spending French clubs must be getting sick and tired of bringing over Irish internationals for talks, knowing in the back of their minds, the Irish just want to stay at home. As Joe Schmidt gets himself comfortable driving the Irish hopes and dreams into the 2015 Rugby World Cup, he must be greatly heartened by the fact that all bar one of his squad look like being Irish based for the next two years. The only foreign based player just happens to be his playmaker but in a rugby world where the French clubs hold the gold, just one player away from home is a serious result. The I.R.FU. can take credit for keeping the players on home soil but how much intention from the player to play in France actually existed. 

The French clubs must be sick of being used as the leverage when an Irish player starts to negotiate his new contract. Most negotiations start with a leak to a newspaper that the player in question has been linked to a big name club in France. As talks with the I.R.F.U. continue, the said player goes on a little holiday to check out the facilities and what’s on offer apart from the sunshine. Jonathan Sexton must be on everyone’s Christmas card list as his move to Paris was the one that called the I.R.F.U.’s bluff. It opened up the possibility that these players were actually serious about leaving. The last two big names in Irish rugby linked with a move to France were Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien. They must have gone to the negotiation table with bigger clout to their hammers using a shrug, a nod and a wink towards their former Leinster colleague, to show that moving was actually a possibility. Donnacha Ryan managed to bring Perpignan to the table and secured a three year deal at home for his efforts.

That is the way the negotiating game has been played up until now. What will happen when the young guys of today, the stars of the future, throw out the names of Toulon, Toulouse and Racing Metro as weight behind their worth? Will any of these clubs answer the phone to an agent looking to offload an Irish international? Have our rugby professionals used up the last of their leverage credits? It will be interesting to see the next big name Irish player that waltzes into training with a ring of onions around his neck. The I.R.F.U. may well wish him bon voyage and the game of bluff will have been called once and for all. The French clubs may stick to happier hunting grounds, next year will see ten full Welsh internationals compete in the Top 14, that in comparison to our one. The English and the Welsh have been a more willing and agreeable lot when it comes to upping sticks and seeking their fortune. Irish rugby need the best players to stay at home, they need their up and coming players to stay at home also. Sexton may have planted the signs to Paris in the training grounds and negotiating rooms around the country but so far the only players that followed, had return tickets. The Welsh in particular may look across the water to the Irish structure and note the obvious advantage in keeping players on home soil. Whatever happens in the future, one thing is for sure, the French won’t be a easily manipulated and it may be a case of ‘don’t ring us, we’ll ring you, Mon Ami’.

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